New Campus Center becomes RIT’s ‘family room’

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Photo by A. Sue Weisler

The Campus Center is now open and students, faculty and staff are finding ways to make themselves comfortable in this charming atmosphere.

The new hub of student activity—the university’s Campus Center—recently opened its doors after more than three years of careful planning and construction. The 30,000-plus square-foot area located across from Clark Gymnasium, with alternate access from inside the Student Alumni Union, is characterized by curved windows, comfortable seating areas and a cascading fountain with an interesting back story. It sits 
in the middle of campus with the hope of becoming a unique space where students can connect, socialize and study. 

“From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to create an inviting atmosphere that was completely student centered,” says Heath Boice-Pardee, associate vice president for student affairs. “This is a gathering place for our students that encourages positive interaction, much like a town square, and connects several aspects of student life together in ways that have never been done before at RIT.”

As visitors enter the Campus Center, they are greeted by open spaces and winding staircases leading to the building’s inhabitants. The facility’s main level houses the Welcome Center, Student Government, the Leadership Institute and Community Service Center and the RIT Women’s Center. It also includes three general-use conference rooms and a large student club resource area that integrates all aspects of club organization, administration and finance. Lower-level tenants include the Center for Campus Life, Reporter magazine, the College Activities Board, Global Union and AALANA (African American, Latino American and Native American) Collegiate Association.

The upper floor features a student lounge positioned in the glass bay overlooking the Quarter Mile. It also houses offices for Orientation and the First-Year Enrichment Program, and offices for the Off Campus and Apartment Student Association. The upper level also has two connected multi-purpose rooms for student events and a sizable reading room with working fireplace for quiet study.

“The multi-purpose room has been named the ‘Bamboo Room’ because it has amazing bamboo wood flooring throughout which gives it an upscale feel,” says Boice-Pardee. “It’s fun to see the students, faculty and staff embracing this Campus Center and making it their own. We hope to rename all of the conference rooms. At this point, it looks like each room will be named after a different aspect of our planet, in keeping with RIT’s global themes across campus.”

Although the $10 million facility has taken the place of the Woodward Pool area, the pool has not been forgotten. One of the more unique features inside the Campus Center is the cascading fountain that was created using bleachers that overlooked the Woodward Pool. 

“So many faculty and staff have told me that they have fond memories of sitting on the bleachers and watching their children compete in swim meets or participating in swimming lessons,” adds Boice-Pardee. “All of those people are elated that the space is being used in a new and different way to serve our university community. In fact, we’re brainstorming ways to make that fountain area more than just a beautiful area. For example, money that is being tossed into the fountain will be donated to charity—and we are thinking of fun and wacky ways to draw more attention to this area—perhaps something involving rubber ducks and inner tubes.” Hmmm.

Students played an integral role in the creation and functionality of the space and so far, they seem pleased with the outcome. 

“At most universities, the student union is the core of campus life and activity,” explains Matt Danna, RIT Student Government president. “Previous Student Government administrations saw that this was really lacking in our student union. They advocated for more club space and resources, meeting rooms and new offices related to student life. From the student input came the new Campus Center.”

“What was once Woodward pool, hosting countless swim meets and events, is now a center for student engagement,” Danna adds. “With an influx of club membership, new major student organizations, and the increasing size of the student body, this construction provided students the foundation they needed for future growth of the institute.”

It’s evident that RIT remains dedicated to its primary customers—its students.

“Some folks have suggested that the detail and intricate finish work in the Campus Center would have been more appropriate for an administrative building,” adds Boice-Pardee. “But, it’s been clear from the beginning that we wanted to give students the top-rate facility that they deserve. And I think we have.”